It is easy to assume that a vote to leave the EU would be beneficial to the UK public affairs industry.
However, when you consider the risks to the country overall in terms of the economy, security and influence in a globalised world, the benefits may not be as attractive as they at first seem.
Britain is a leader in Europe and around the world. Our influence is prominent when it comes to political, economic and cultural issues. Part of this influence comes from our leadership role in the EU, the world’s largest trading block.
So why should we, in the comms and public affairs industry, vote to remain in the EU?
Economic stability and prosperity is critical to the UK’s success. It is also critical to the comms and public affairs industry. When businesses feel stable and confident about the future, they are much more likely to significantly invest in external comms support. Economic confidence is contagious, but so is economic insecurity.
A vote to leave would leave us with a minimum of two years of uncertainty. It would also leave some of our clients with a huge business decision related to their future in the UK. This environment would not be prosperous for our industry and it is quite possible we would struggle to recover.
More than three million jobs in the UK are linked to exports to other European Union countries. The impact of the loss of our trade status, the uncertainty over negotiating individual trade agreements, and any economic instability could result in significant job losses across multiple industries. There would be no guarantee that our own industry would be immune to this.
The UK’s relationship with the EU, in addition to our devolved settlement, makes the UK a rich and sometimes complex landscape for public affairs professionals.
When devising a public affairs strategy it is intellectually challenging to consider and advise on the role of multiple institutions, from the EU all the way through to local councils.
A vote to leave would significantly diminish this element of the work we do and we would risk no longer attracting some of the brightest brains to work in our industry.
In a globalised world, collaboration and integration are the future, whether in our own businesses or in the country, so having an open mind and spirit of collaboration is critical.
A vote to leave is an isolationist move, and not reflective of Britain’s role and influence in the world. As a public affairs and comms industry we need to think through the implications for us as individuals, for our own businesses, for our industry, and ultimately for the country in which we live and work.
In my view, a vote to leave would be reckless and unnecessary. Our industry’s growth potential relies on economic stability, job stability, and on attracting the best talent. The UK being a member of the EU enhances and supports these three areas.
Being a member of the EU benefits our country, and our industry, enormously. I hope that both the country and the public affairs industry vote overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union.
Jo-ann Robertson is partner and deputy CEO at Ketchum London